You and decoy placement are critical to hunting success

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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You could have some of the most life-like decoys available on the market today, but if you just throw them onto the water haphazardly, you could be doing more damage to luring ducks than actual attracting.

According to archaeological evidence unearthed in caves in Nevada, Native Americans were using decoys to attract migrating waterfowl as long as 2,000 years ago, decoys fashioned from bound, woven reeds.

If you’ve seen pictures of these ancient decoys, you’ll agree they pretty much resemble a duck. Today, in spreads where hundreds of decoys are placed, I’ve seen decoys made of cut-up vehicle tires on stakes on the outer periphery, points furthest from the shooters.

Regardless what type of decoy you use, it’s critical that planning is employed when placing the decoys so birds are actually drawn to the set rather than scared away.

In dealing with real estate, the by-word is location-location-location. The same priority holds true when you’re placing decoys. Regardless how lifelike they appear, how well you spread out the dekes and how appealing it may appear to you, if the real birds in the air don’t like the location, they’ll go elsewhere.

It doesn’t matter whether you shoot at a high-priced club, hunt any of the numerous state or federal wildlife areas or freelance in open space, you need to learn the area. You need to be in the critical zones when birds are flying — and not be there as a shooter.

Scout the different areas. Find those ducks favor as feeding, resting and roosting sites. Once you’ve identified them, more than half the battle is won. Even then, you may have to make adjustments to site prime gunning areas.

Regardless how calm and quiet the day may seem, ducks want to make their landing into the wind. Once you’ve decided where to place your decoys, set up your blind or hide so the decoys are in front of you with the wind and sun at your back. If the wind is in your face, move to another location, even if it’s simply to the other side of the decoys.

Birds don’t just sit when they land on water. They’re constantly on the move. If you don’t want to put out the extra bucks for battery-operated dekes, put a couple of pull strings onto several decoys. Jerking the string will cause movement, which also will cause the water to ripple, and all the decoys will move.

One trick that works well is to take a couple of decoys into your blind. Oftentimes, ducks will make one pass to take a look. You can convince them it’s a place others are landing by flinging a deke into the air at a time your movement won’t spook them.

One or more in the flock will spot that deke in the air, coming down in the block, appearing as if it’s a real duck coming in for a landing.

Don’t worry how the decoy lands. With the weighted keel, even if they land on their back, they’ll generally flip upright.

With the lack of any great wind and rainstorms to date, hunting has been tough. These suggestions may be just want you need to put birds within range.

Current fishing

Lake Camanche: Trout trolling remains good. On cloudy, overcast days, you can top line and nail trout. On sunny days, need to drop down 12-18 feet, which will necessitate lead core or downriggers. Dodgers can be worth their weight in gold. Trail a threaded-on night crawler or a lure such as a Rapala in fire tiger, blue-white or black-silver. Dunking bait from shore can be a long waiting game.

Port of Sacramento: Access on the south shore of the port and channel can be iffy. Stripers are throughout the port and channel areas. The boat club located on the north side of the port, with the only ramp in the immediate vicinity, will hold its annual striper derby in another week or so, and generally a pretty good number of linesides are checked in, though nothing really impressive in size. Most are small schoolies from 3-6 pounds. But there is the occasional lunker.

The main thing to remember if you want to fish these waters is to watch the tide book carefully. It’s almost mandatory to fish the outgoing tide. Fish a slack tide or the incoming and you won’t find much action.

If you fish from shore, you’ll do best with a jumbo minnow under a slip bobber. Some anglers are drifting in the turning basin with minnows but not having the success trollers and jiggers are having.

Trollers are hauling a spreader with a two- or three-ounce Hair Raiser on one end and something like a broken-back Rebel on the other, and others are hauling nothing but a Hair Raiser and doing well.

Suisun Bay: Again, watch your tide book. If you find a good moving tide, go. Sturgeon action will make the trip worth the while. Around the mothball fleet and in and around nearby Montezuma Slough, the action has been good with shrimp, pile worms and roe. Use bullheads for stripers. There are lots of 20-pounders roaming these waters.

Lake Amador: They’re planting homegrown cut-bows by the thousands of pounds. Those who don’t catch fish are generally fishing too deep. The fish tend to run in the top three feet of water so don’t use a sliding sinker and fish on the bottom. They aren’t down there. Float Power Bait, eggs or a crawler under a bobber or a cast-a-bubble. If you have the two-rod stamp, use bait on one rig and cast-retrieve with a lure. Keep changing lures every few casts until you find exactly what they want that day.

Contact George deVilbiss at